SLU May Pass on Pevely Site for New Medical Facility

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Pevely Dairy complex - St. Louis, MO

According to a source, St. Louis University is no longer planning to build a new ambulatory care facility at the largely demolished Pevely Dairy complex on South Grand. If you missed it, SLU went to the mattresses to demand that they be allowed to demolish the complex listed on the National Register of Historic Places, insisting time and time again that the only site suitable for the new facility was the southwest corner of of South Grand and Chouteau Avenue, adjacent to the existing medical campus. SLU President Fr. Lawrence Biondi went as far as to threaten moving the hosptial and medical school if the city denied demolition.

To be clear, the premise of the demolition was always that this site, and this site only would be suitable for the medical facility. The Associated Press, KSDK and others wrote headlines stating that the Preservation Board's denial of demolition was "a setback for a new $75 million surgical center for Saint Louis University". It was argued strongly here and elsewhere that plan presented a host of false choices. This demolition request, like many, was presented as an "either/or" – either SLU was going to be allowed to build their new medical facility or "preservationists" were going to stop them to save a vacant building. Few considered that once demolition occurred, that the facility would be built elsewhere.

Pevely Dairy complex - St. Louis, MO
{view of demolished smokestack and Pevely buildings from South Grand}

At the Preservation Board meeting, 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy, whose ward contains the Pevely complex and SLU medical campus west of Grand, ended his testimony by stating "if this (demo) is what SLU says it needs to build a new clinic then I support them." Roddy and SLU project architect Steve Smith both referred to hosptials that had left the City of St. Louis over the past 50 years, raising the spector of a SLU move to the county. It was reported by Michael Calhoun of KMOX that Fr. Biondi stated if Pevely demolition were denied, SLU medical school would be shut down and moved to St. Louis County, claiming that the university had been offered land near Maryville University. When Calhoun followed up, asking for more detail after the decision, Biondi flatly stated, "Well, this is now approved so that point is moot."

One board member asked how we could be assured that a new building would be built given that an historic mansion was allowed to be demolished for a new SLU Law facility on the Frost Campus that will now not be built. Fr. Biondi answered that financing is already in place and the facility could break ground in a month.

{the Missouri Belting Co. building at the Pevely complex}

A Twitter message from the Preservation Research Office posted shortly after the story broke, stated "International Fur Exchange-style reprieve for Pevely Dairy? Possible. Thank the holdout owners of Missouri Belting building." The Fur exchange was famously saved literally mid-demo and is now a Drury hotel. The Missouri Belting building is shown above and also below, in green. SLU has previously stated that they had an agreement in place to purchase this building and stated that they would seek a demolition permit.

The majority of the Pevely complex, including the smokestack, where quickly demolished following the city Planning Commission's vote to overturn the Preservation Board's denial of demolition. The only restriction placed on the decision was to only allow a demolition permit for the corner Pevely building once a building permit for the new facility had been issued. At the time, SLU argued against this provision, stating that it was too restrictive and that they needed flexibility to fullfill their healthcare mission. The Preservation Board and Planning Commission debated requiring a building permit for any demolition to occur, but in the end, the corner building alone received this protection. If the new facility is in fact going to be located elsewhere, the remaining Pevely building may have a stay of execution. The contentious issue dragged on for months, with What Should Be, and others offering alternative plans for the project that would incorporate the existing corner building, or use another site altogether.

{the building in blue remains – buildings in red and smokestack have been demolished – building in green has a contract pending and will be demolished – building in yellow was lost to fire}

{SLU site plan for new ambulatory medical facility at Pevely Dairy site}

{a vision by What Should Be of retaining Pevely and building a new medical facility}

Pevely Dairy rendering
{the complex was once slated for residential reuse}

{a view looking west on Chouteau Ave at only remaining Pevely building}

Previous coverage of the Pevely Dairy complex

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  • Patriot K.

    Please destroy that ugly building with no historical value. I don’t care if SLU builds a new medical center. Just get rid of the heinous thing before my eyes shrivel up. Demolishing it will just attract more people to the city.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Heinous like this building? or maybe this one? or maybe this one? or maybe… You get the idea. It’s not the building that’s the problem, it’s the demolition of everything around it and the owners refusal to redevelop.

    • Adam

      “Demolishing it will just attract more people to the city.”

      it’s not possible that you actually believe this, so go troll elsewhere.

  • D.j. Knight

    Talk around SLU is that Fr. Biondi wants to replace SLU Hospital &/or the Med School. This seems to fit with the “design anything” story to expedite Pevely’s demo, the silence on the plans for the empty lot across the street, & now the change in the location of the Ambulatory Care facility.

    Fr. Biondi is jealous when he looks to the west & sees the sprawling Barnes complex. It seems he wants a large complex of his own that includes SLU & Cardinal Glennon facilities & will rival Barnes.

    Clearing out Pevely & the nearby houses gets him not only closer to a larger Medical complex on par with Barnes, but also another step towards everything on Grand from I-44 to Lindell with SLU branding & the Grand metrolink station right there in the middle of it all.

  • 12345

    What do you expect to happen with a major University centered almost in the middle of a city. For an institution of higher learning and a growing University, there needs to be new growth within the University to expand innovation, research, services, and provide for the students first and foremost.
    The Pevely building is severely outdated and out of use. I understand saving history, but when you start to attach historical significance to every signal building that is 90+ years old, you are going to have a city that looks like it is stuck back in the early 1900s. In addition, restoring buildings such as Pevely usually ends up costing more due to structural damages and so forth. While history should not be forgotten, it is impossible to save every piece of it. To do so would hinder the future.
    St. Louis is in dire need for updating its infrastructure and buildings, SLU is taking part by revitalizing an intrinsically important part to the city of St. Louis.
    As for Fr. Biondi’s decision-making, there are businesses around here that struggle and allow themselves to be bought. Again, this University provides St. Louis with economic growth, services, etc. By not providing room for continued enrollment and facilities, the University would not be able to meet the ongoing needs of the students and would more than likely see a decline in enrollment and funding.
    So while some of you want to squander in the old and unproductiveness of vacant buildings, and criticize someone for economic growth, innovation, and revitalization, SLU will continue to grow and become a center piece for the City of St. Louis.

    Fr. Biondi may be a bit much at times, but he is taking SLU great places, taking the name St. Louis with it.

    • Alex Ihnen

      You miss the point. We all want SLU to expand and be successful, but have you seen their land use in Midtown? They’re literally sitting on dozens of acres of vacant land. Speaking only for myself, I didn’t want Pevely to be reused (I don’t think “saved” is the right word) because it was historic, but because it’s a) more urban than what was to replace it, b) could have provided much needed residential units (the SLU student paper endorsed making it student housing and several SLU medical students wanted more housing options so that they could live close to the hospital), and c) reusing building (of nearly any kind) is more sustainable and results in a more interesting (see: livable, vibrant and economically successful) city. If you think that the problem with the City of St. Louis is that we’ve ‘saved’ too much of the past, well, that’s nuts – we’ve destroyed a larger part of our city than just about anywhere in the country. If you think the future of the city should look like SLU, then you don’t want the city to be a city.

    • Adam

      yes, revitalization and economic growth = tearing down density for grass, fountains, and parking lots. what an inane comment. have you ever been to an economically healthy city? it seems not.

  • Guest

    I know for a fact that SLU was trying to recruit a local architecture firm to “design anything” that resembled a medical facility to expedite the demolition, stating “it doesn’t matter what you design because we won’t build it.” This was just as a reaction to the growing numbers protesting the demolition and the threat of additional red tape down the road. I know this to be true and that the firm turned down the offer due to the circumstances, and their stance on preservation.

    Dredger is right, there are great examples of new and mixed use repurposed buildings. SLU needs to see outside their own box.

    D314 – SLU’s site plan above couldn’t have taken more than an hour. SLU has plenty of money to throw at something better than that, especially if they were actually considering the site for construction of a 75M project. Please… Don’t let Biondi’s power trip be so compelling, making threats is his go to policy to get people to sway to his liking.

  • Clay Franken

    Fr. Biondi is awesome kand doing the right thing. This vacant eye sore will now become useful and productive. Nothing good is coming from the vacant property.
    The residential reuse didn’t happen because it didn’t make financial sense. Grow up. I would expect most of you voted for Hope and Change. LOL.

    • Adam

      Right, it couldn’t possibly be that the reuse didn’t happen because of the recession, and the fact that no bank would give anybody a loan to do anything. And as we’ve seen, vacant buildings never get reused. In fact, there are no old buildings in St. Louis that have been converted to residential because there’s no money to be made in it. Your argument is air-tight and very grown-up, so much so that I’m in no way surprised by the completely irrelevant partisan quip.

    • drewski

      … and we’re still waiting for all the vacant land around the med campus to be developed

  • G-Man

    I’m honestly surprised the Cupples Mansion still stands. One would think SLU would need another parking lot or random grassy area.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camels back when it comes to demolition in St. Louis.

    • Guesty McGuesterson

      There is no straw in this town. EVER.

  • Steve

    I’ve been thinking about this for several hours now and I’m still flabbergasted. But considering Biondi’s history, I probably shouldn’t be. He’s abused eminent domain in the past to get rid of businesses he didn’t like (20 North, Gateway Saloon) and replaced them with parking lots. I was hopeful with this, but it seems between this and the law school debacle that he’s still a weasel.

  • dredger

    Randy S, unfortunately miss the point of what generates economic activity in an urban setting let alone for a city that is landlocked. It is called structures, you have economic value when the land you have is built on. The more and higher you go the more economic activity you have, think New York, Chicago and so on. Please, please look at the very last picture of Alex post and describe to me how you generate economic activity when you go from a proposal to re purpose a private parcel with structures on it that would generate tax revenue to a empty lots that are owned by a non profit charity that if Alex is correct, will not be built on.

    The reality is the city is losing out on vital economic activity every time a structure is knocked down, grass is planted and a pretty fountain is erected by SLU. For every dollar that SLU has helped they are also finding a way to take away a dollar, maybe more. Yes, they have built some structures, but they have torn down a large amount of square footage. If you want a good example of why people are upset at the opportunity, goes across the freeway and realize that CORTEX phase II will be a mix of re use and new BJC buildings.

  • Nick

    This is awful.

  • Randy S

    All I can say is wow… First off, how many of the “preservationists” actually go to this site to admire it’s beauty? Oh ya, none. Just look at the picture above with the caption about looking west on Chouteau! It’s a complete eye sore. Another point is maybe we should do some research on why the Pevely building is a “historic mansion,” if one can even call it that, in the first place (and no, it’s not because it is a wonderful piece of architecture). I tip my hat to Father Biondi. I’ve lived here for over a decade and have seen the amazing transformation SLU has experienced. Just take a stroll through SLU’s campus and attempt, that is right attempt, to argue with me about how beautiful it has become. SLU has, and always will be, an advocate for Saint Louis City. It is an oasis. I suppose “preservationists” need something to complain about; Father Biondi, stay strong and rule with an iron fist. God Bless SLU!

    • JPCosgrove

      This preservationist has admired the Pevely complex many times, and I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating the hulking masses of old factories and smokestacks. They’re a testament to this city’s grander past and have the potential to be reused in very creative ways. And I have to disagree that SLU is a beautiful campus. It’s not ugly by any means, but I wouldn’t use the term “beautiful.” It’s basically giant lawns with sculptures dotted here and there. Nothing special.

      • Randy S

        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose. I’d take grass and fountains over a run down building anyday. What would you call beautiful? Would you consider stl’s gem Wash U to be beautiful? Maybe they have the right idea. Maybe SLU should abandon ship and move to the suburbs. JPCosgrove, you hit the nail on the head. These dilapidated buildings have potential, but what good is a city full of potential yet no development? I didn’t see any developer chomping at the bit for years to buy the Pevely building. But then here came SLU. D314 is completely right: you have this golden opportunity to dump a ton of money into the city, but all SLU gets is a bunch of flack about how they don’t care. If SLU doesn’t care about the city, why do they hold a community service day where over 3,000 students spend hours making the community more “beautiful” and better? I myself planted trees and flowers on Jefferson Ave, which I would do again in a heart beat despite people saying my efforts aren’t “beautiful” enough for them. Let SLU who is actively involved in making STL great AGAIN continue to do so. God bless SLU.

        • JPCosgrove

          I actually mean the opposite. What I’m saying is that SLU is an urban campus in the heart of the city but it’s trying to force what it has into a traditional campus-like setting. It feels very disconnected from its surroundings (I go there, so this is from personal experience). It would be really great if SLU capitalized more on its neighborhood, turning it into an true destination rather than trying to force it to look like a suburban campus. I know schools can do this. My undergraduate institution built an entire new urbanist community on vacant land rather than letting it sit empty or throwing up a couple of statues.

        • Alex Ihnen

          The issue here has nothing to do with beauty or preservation per se, it concerns possible deceptive practices.

          • guest

            This is the point I’m afraid will be overlooked in all of this.

        • Adam

          “Another point is maybe we should do some research on why the Pevely
          building is a ‘historic mansion,’ …”


          “I didn’t see any developer chomping at the bit for years to buy the Pevely building.”


          Randy, go educate yourself and them come back to the conversation. It’s pretty clear you’re a Biondi fan-boy and you don’t actually care about facts. Surprise, surprise.

          • D314

            Give me a break I know the facts and the fact is that if Ricky was serious and dedicated about buying the pevely complex he shouldve had more than a rough rendering of what restored buildings look like and he wouldve put some cash down to pull the complex off the market until he could determine the feasibility of the project. Which is what developers do that are SERIOUS about a project so that someone doesnt slide in with a better offer and buy it out from under you. The city and the preservation crowd here would have fought to the death so that a developer could get as many extensions on contract or whatever they needed to keep this project out of the hands of SLU until the plans were complete. Problem is nobody stepped up! But SLU did demolish most of the complex… and now they might not proceed with development. And that my friends is BULL$HIT! because i definitely do not agree with demolition if your not going to follow through.

          • Adam

            Why would “Ricky” have bothered with the renderings if he wasn’t
            interested? The renderings were part of the pitch to get financing. Don’t forget what the economy was doing at the time: NOBODY COULD GET A
            LOAN. And let’s not forget that the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools attempted to buy Pevely as well (not sure if it was before or after sale to SLU, but I believe after) before buying the building downtown. So stop pretending there was no interest. I also find it amusing when folks insist that Pevely was
            just sitting around vacant for years and years and years. IT WAS VACANT
            FOR THREE YEARS. THAT IS ALL. Lastly, please explain how the
            “preservation crowd” is supposed to keep it out of the hands of SLU. The
            National Register status doesn’t prevent buying and selling. It doesn’t
            even prevent demolition as we’ve seen. It only emphasizes the
            significance of a structure and makes available financial incentives for redevelopment. SLU made no indication of their plans for Pevely until
            something like a year after they purchased it. And there was no
            indication that they were GOING to purchase it until it actually
            happened, which is exactly the way Biondi wanted it (I wonder why).

          • D314

            Let me break it down for you. Like i said before…. Any developer with the means to take on a project that size has the cash to put down to pull the building off the market. After a price and due diligence time is agreed upon and the contract is signed the building is now in escrow and CANNOT be touched by anybody else. What i was saying above was that with the immense support from preservationists and the city there would have been no limit to the extensions he couldve had on the contract if needed. Therefore giving him all the time needed to put final plans together and secure financing. And by the way those renderings and rough sketches can be computerized in a week, they aren’t construction documents and they aren’t even EC’s. It says nothing to his interest in the project except that he looked at it and said maybe ill consider moving forward lets see how it COULD look when completed. Its still blowing my mind that a 75 million dollar project is faced with such opposition. consider just ONE person out of work and hurting that could be given a job by this project…. How much is preservation worth?

            and just for record ill said AGAIN… I agree historic preservation is important but you have to evaluate all the circumstances.

          • Adam

            Reiterating your original post (i.e. “breaking it down for me”) didn’t address any of the points that I brought up. The fact is that Yacky was interested, regardless of where he was in exploring redevelopment, when the economy tanked. SLLIS was interested too, and very well may have purchased the building if SLU wasn’t hell-bent on destroying it. MY point is that in the three short years that the building was vacant there WAS significant interest, so to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. The reality is that Biondi did not want anyone else to buy it, and he wasn’t about to let that happen.

            It’s also disingenuous to pretend that opposition to demolishing Pevely = opposition to a $75 million dollar project that could be built NEXT to Pevely, across the street, or on any number of nearby parking lots (and still might be, apparently). So if it’s blowing your mind you’re not understanding why we’re upset, or you’re just being hyperbolic. By the way, have you considered the number of jobs that would be created if BOTH Pevely were rehabbed AND the ambulatory center were built? Have you considered the cost of demolition? Have you considered where all that debris is going?

            And don’t worry, I read the part where you disagree IF they don’t go through with it. We just disagree about what qualifies as pointless demo and, conversely, smart development in a city rife with vacant lots and surface parking.

          • D314

            I see your side. Your right this is a simple disagreement. I get fired up about the lack of development in town thats why i want to see some big things happening. STL should boom out of this recession with all the development potential. Im confident it will. Thanks for the debate.

          • D314

            Oh and a side note…. I completely disagree with the way Biondi approaches real estate. All aspects.

          • Adam

            Not sure what’s going on with my line returns. My apologies for that.

    • Kyle_AS

      Nobody called Pevely a “historic mansion.” SLU demolished a historic mansion near the main campus and failed to build its replacement. If you were not so eager to post your rant, you would have read the article.

      • Randy S

        You are correct Kyle, I mispoke. I did read the article and just find it hard to believe an institution that does so much for the city gets so much bad press.

    • Imran

      Randy S, I just hope you get the opportunity to travel to historic cities and see what historic preservation yields for hundreds of years in the future. Much more that grassy fields ever will.

      • D314

        HAHA. well if you look at the numbers…. at this rate it looks like in a hundred years we will have a city full of historic buildings and nobody to occupy them.

        • Imran

          I don’t just look at the numbers. I live in and experience the city. It has been steadily improving and is a much more exciting place to live today then even 10 years ago. Nobody knows what will happen in a 100 years. An earthquake could flatten the whole thing. In the meanwhile we have to be good stewards and save the connection to the past from folks who can’t see beyond a few years.

    • Kevin Barbeau

      I’ve read through this thread, so this isn’t an off-the-cuff comment. I just wanted to point out your line “Just look at the picture above with the caption about looking west on Chouteau! It’s a complete eye sore.”

      Google Streetview will show you it looked a lot better just, oh, two months ago, when SLU leveled a building for a medical center it may never put there — and didn’t “need” to in the first place. Go a few years back and there were some buildings on the north side too (now a vacant lot due to…well, you know) to add to the streetview.

      Chouteau should be a major E-W route through the City. And it is in many parts, though SLU seems to be doing its best to tear up its little stretch, basically blighting it to the point where they’re the only ones who will buy/build there (McKee of Downtown West?). Same with that near-south stretch of Grand too.

  • Nick Zulauf

    SLU wanted the “eye sore” gone…. now they can make a greenway and have their students get mugged in it… eff em… I think this was a way just to get rid of that complex… God speaks directly to Biondi. You all don’t know this…

  • colin

    @landmarks_stl: “Spoke with Clayton Berry, Asst VP of Comm. at SLU. Says Pevely plans still moving forward.”

  • T-Leb

    The residential reuse rendering looks awesome

  • stlgasm

    If this turns out to be true, the Planning Commission should be held accountable for their active role in the needless destruction of a National Historic Landmark.

    • Imran

      I would question Ivy Pinkston. She was the most sassy and supportive of SLU at the planning commission meeting.

  • Will Fru

    This is outrageous!

  • D314

    How long would the Pevely Complex have to sit vacant before you all considered demolition?!? Another couple decades? More? Fabric of the city…. PEOPLE are the fabric of a city and PEOPLE are leaving this city. Historic preservation is the MOST DIFFICULT kind of development. So if SLU had plans to preserve a portion of the complex and at the same time spend 75 MILLION DOLLARS on new construction on the site we cant support that?!? 75 MILLION DOLLARS in new City of St. Louis construction! we can’t support that? Bringing business and people into the city…. we cant support that? Contractors going back to work to build this project and money back into the economy… we cant support that? Preservation is important… no question about that. In my opinion St. Louis has a great number of beautifully restored buildings and I want to continue to see the majority of historic architecture preserved. But we have to keep our eye on the prize, which is to bring PEOPLE and MONEY back into the city and get the St. Louis engine, which used to run so strong, firing on all cylinders once again!

    • Alex Ihnen

      Renovation of historic buildings produces more local jobs and keeps more money in the local economy. What would St. Louis look like if every building that had been vacant for 3+ years had been demolished? No Washington Avenue, no Landing, no downtown lofts, no Fox Theatre, no Old North, no Grove, no Loop… get it?

      And this is all beside the point because even those who wanted Pevely to be repurposed wanted SLU to build a new medical facility. It was hoped they would do so on a different site. And in fact this is what appears to be happening – after they demolished nearly all of Pevely.

      • Ebo

        Right. SLU made this a choice between the Pevely complex and the new ambulatory care center. Most people against demolition were not against a new medical building, we wanted to find a way for both to exist. Instead SLU presented us with a false choice, so they could get their way. Now we have a pile of rubble and the new medical center being built elsewhere. We could have had 75 MILLION DOLLARS and the Pevely complex.

        But hey, if you like seafood, you have to be excited that the Captain D’s across the street survived the wrecking ball.

    • Jason Stokes

      Read the post. There’s an empty lot across the street that would have worked just fine.

    • Imran

      Agree with all of that investment but put in one of the myriad empty lots. When you run out of empty lots, then talk about tearing down old structures.

    • Imran

      For the umpteenth time, presevationists SUPPORT a 75 million dollar investment in the city but BUILD IT ON AN EMPTY LOT. That too bring business back, put contractors to work etc

  • Robert A. West


  • guest

    I am in shock. I mean, is this source reliable?

    I just can’t take STL politics and power plays anymore. It’s like there is a concerted effort to destroy the fabric of the City.

  • John

    WTF? What a bunch of a-holes.

  • Randy V.

    Something is terribly, terribly wrong with the way decisions are made in this city.

    • Jason Stokes


  • Kevin B

    Ten bucks says SLU goes for the full demo citing that the remaining building “no longer has historical context.”

    • john w.

      well, the DO have to make room for a fountain and a field.

  • STLyuppie

    Wow! If I were a member of SLU’s Board of Trustees, I would be ginning for a vote of no confidence in Father Biondi’s leadership with what’s come out this week.